Local 338 is an amalgamated union representing four separate bargaining units: Kaiser Aluminum - production/maintenance and clerical/technical workers, Kaiser Alutek workers, and LB Foster pre-cast/railroad ties division workers. We number more than 1000 private sector members who work primarily in manufacturing industries in North Eastern Washington.
2014 ANNUAL MEETING
On March 11, the Annual Meeting between Kaiser Aluminum and the Steelworkers took place here in Spokane. Annual meetings are called for in our contract and provide a forum for both parties to discuss wide-ranging issues which affect each of the plants covered by the master agreement. This year Jack Hockema, President and CEO of Kaiser Aluminum, opened the meeting with a business presentation for our local's executive board. Jack shared his concerns over metal pricing in 2014 and the advancing infringement of foreign competition but was upbeat over recent capital investments coming online at Trentwood. He reiterated the importance of improving quality and delivery performance as being fundamental to our success. During the general session we reviewed and talked about plant safety, workers compensation, healthcare, the incentive plan, disabled veterans returning to work, retiree services, and VEBA. This year’s annual meeting presented a much needed opportunity to work at resolving several outstanding issues for Trentwood and Local 341(Newark Ohio). I’ll give a full report at our next union meeting on April 8th.
WHO’S IN CONTROL?
Healthcare has reached status as the dominant topic of discussion in the public arena and in our private lives. This past year our executive board internally debated the merits of national healthcare and its future implications. Many from the middle class have sounded off that the Affordable Healthcare Act isn’t affordable for everyone. I’ve talked personally with those who’ve lost coverage through their previous plan and haven’t been able to find an affordable alternative. If you’re above the poverty level government regulated exchanges are not only expensive but complex and confusing. Those of us working under union contracts with provisions for employer paid medical benefits have been able to avoid some of the challenges many Americans are now facing. Diminishing affordable quality healthcare isn’t something new. It’s a problem flagged with warning signs that began appearing in the late 80’s. Just in the last decade alone medical costs have risen on average 15% per year. Based on those increases economists have predicted that if the trend were to continue affordable quality healthcare would soon become just a memory. At some point necessity dictates change and that’s where the debate begins. The question then becomes what changes are needed and who will make the changes; consumers, doctors, insurance providers, or government mandates? I don’t pretend to have all the answers but there are things each of us can do to control our own medical costs. Industry analysts say that in the near future taking responsibility for our personal health won’t be an option but an enforceable reality. One of the first steps in taking control is to find a primary care physician and get periodic wellness exams. Early detection of health related problems is extremely important for your wellbeing and can help minimize costs associated with treatment. Becoming a better consumer is another way to lower medical costs. One example of being a good consumer is to choose doctors and medical facilities within your plan’s network. Doctors and specialists who are in your network have agreed to set rates which are deemed customary and reasonable. Your medical plan will only pay about 70% for out-of-network services which means you'll pay more out-of-pocket. Another way to control costs is better use of your RX plan. If you take name brand prescription drugs talk to your doctor about prescribing a generic brand. If you are using long term maintenance drugs you can save a lot of money by using the 90 day mail order system through your Express Scripts plan. Good consumers also take the time to review their medical bills. Over the years I’ve discovered fees and services in billing statements that were incorrect. Keep track of your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) to be sure you are not being overcharged or charged for services you did not receive. If you find a billing error contact your plan administrator and get it corrected. Your group insurance book explains how a self-audit of your medical statement could earn you money. The company will pay you 50% of the net savings up to $500 for correcting errors and overcharges. For details go to page 64 of the yellow insurance handbook. If you don’t have a copy of the medical benefits book, let me know.
HAD YOUR SHINGLES SHOT ?
Each year more than a million adults are stricken with the painful and debilitating virus called shingles. According to the Center for Disease Control, adults who are 60 and older should be vaccinated to reduce their risk of getting the virus. The vaccination is expensive costing as much as $300. However, if you are at least 60 years old, and using the United Health Care plan (not the RX plan) shingles vaccinations are covered.
We’ve discovered that most doctor offices in our area are not equipped to store the vaccine. Rolf Laurin, has located a pharmacy here in the Spokane Valley which does carry the vaccine and can administer it. The Walgreen’s pharmacy located at Sprague and Sullivan is now set up to give shingles shots and will also accept United Health Care insurance as payment.
Dan Wilson, President—Local 338